I had been with a club for two years and for the start of the third year the entire field was graded, packed, groomed and seeded. It was beautiful! The pitcher’s mound was the last thing to be built and rumor had it that our groundskeeper was going to build a bond fire on it.
I got to admit that did get the attention of a lot of us, including the owners. I for one never heard of the process of actually “burning” a mound in.
Needless to say, the day of the “lighter-up boys!” came with a lot of apprehension but the head groundskeeper assured everybody that precautions were being taken and don’t worry about a thing.
Yeah, right. This was the club that erected a 100 flag pole and stuck only four feet of it in the ground in a block of cement. When the flag pole came down in a gust of wind it flattened the concession stand like a wheaty-flake. And this was the club that replaced the night lights and somehow the left field lights got turned around so they faced the exit ramp off the freeway … blinding everyone heading 50 miles per hour into the toll booths. Yeah, this was the club that had a piglet chase for kids and ten of pigs got loose and headed in all directions. All I know is that the local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting had something to write about that night… let me tell ya.
I did check with a few of my fellow coaches around the league and low and behold there is such a thing as burning a mound into place. It starts with a mound mix base of raw clay, crushed brick and an assortment of other stuff. Then, a small fire is built on top and the heat “bakes” the clay dry and hardens
Well, the day came and crackle and burn it went. All that stuck in my mind was the part I heard “a small fire”. This one was a beauty. Come to think of it I think the local airport used the embers for a while as a guiding light.
The next day the mound was swept off and ready for … wait a minute, they forgot to put the pitcher’s rubber in. We were told not to fret… the rubber goes in afterwards.
Don’t fret? Every time someone would say that … a chill would go up and down my back. That mound was so hard that the groundskeepers had to rent some special equipment to make a hole in the top of the mound. In fact, the mound was not only hard by impossible to gain any footing on. The front of the mound where the stride foot lands was so hard and slippery that it was like landing on a piece of pottery.
What was really funning was watching a visitation to the mound by a visiting team’s coach. He’d call time, walk towards the mound, then start to walk up the sides only to check and recheck his footing. Then the plate umpire would take a walk out to break up the picnic and get the game going only to look like a novice skier on the side of some ski slope …. and slowly slide down.